Travel Agents? Kiss my Patootie!
Cruise ships are progressing from the sublime to the completely ridiculous "floating resorts" we now see.
Do your research and keep you guard up!
Travel Agents? Kiss my Patootie!
In my frequent traveler days, travel agents were a pleasure to deal with. They lacked the plethora of destinations available today and often had a good idea of what your preferred holiday dream might consist of. They had reps on the ground in the more popular places and rarely sent customers to resorts only half built, or sited in the middle of air strips, war zones or refugee camps. They really cared and this was really surprising when you knew their good offices were free to the tourists.
Free, because back in these wondrous days, the airlines, shipping companies and the rest were billed by the agents, or deducted at source, for 15% of the fare costs. This was standard throughout the industry, at least, where I happily resided in those halcyon days, the good ‘ol US of…
I was prompted to address this situation when I bought my usual Saturday newspaper, the ‘Mail, from Tesco in Hertfordshire where I now live.
Fully one third of the rag - where the real estate section and sports could once be found - was now crammed full of travel advertisements. Could so many people really have the bread and wanted to get out of the UK this summer? One look out of the window explained the latter thought - an east wind moaned by and it was sleeting, well, it was only two months into Spring! May 15th. (“Ne’er cast a clout ‘till May is out” advises the old but accurate adage). “If there’s then sun in June,” I intoned to myself, “That’s quite a boon,” adding, “It’s soon Wimbledon again, means two weeks of rain!” Poetry can soothe a savage breast.
And as there are holidays to suit everyone’s pocket - a fortnight in the Seychelles for a year of my income, to a weekend’s camping by a bitter, wind-swept coast in Wales for twenty quid a night and damp sheep as company, (No, I didn’t mean that!), an answer to the first part of my musings were revealed to me.
But few of the announcements were by the venues themselves - except for Butlins, which is like going to join the Persian refugees in their tents for a week - all had been acquired by an agent, which seemed to have taken the price the airline or hotel might have charged and multiplied it by two or more. No petty 15% for these acquisitive entrepreneurs these days. They were taken over by that philosophy so vividly described by Michael Douglas in that movie about Wall Street, “Greed has now become legal.”
There are sooo many complaints about these agencies and, ipso facto, the ‘resorts” and cruise ships that are the end result of people’s “dreams,” often becoming their nightmare in fact.
As usual, it seems the upmarket agencies seem to do a fair job if you can afford the Caribbean Islands, the South of France or Monte Carlo, say. You then go to the 5-star hotels and may even fly first-class where you are entertained by the groans, suffering and occasional cardiac arrest of those flying tourist class back there somewhere. “It’s awful, Harry, they should be gagged!”
(You can’t even get a staff member on long haul jumbo flights now in the cheap seats, they have built a hidey-hole for them, accessed by a tiny elevator (lift) where they go and sleep for several hours!). This is sadly true, and they emerge, looking tousled but relaxed to serve breakfast to the lucky tourists who haven’t expired from deep-vein thrombosis - or their neighbor’s halitosis.
So many holidays have gone wrong that many agencies have taken a stand and refused to refund or compensate unhappy customers. This, by the way, is an attitude spreading to many industries in the service sector: banks are refusing to refund wrongly removed fines, etc., insurance companies are using every dodge in the book and many they invent daily to refuse to honor claims. It is becoming a “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s war between customers and the institutions they have to (often by law) do business with. I mean, is there a greater criminal conspiracy anywhere than that between government and vehicle insurers to separate you from as much money as possible?
(The travel insurers amuse me…they charge steep rates to insure for loss and theft then limit their liability to maximum 300 quid per claim! Try getting another Piaget or even a top mobile device for that!)
The television companies have eagerly seized on this suffering and have begun programs such as “Watch Dog,” etc., etc., where the injustices are aired and little is done to correct the situation, (delinquents are even telling the press to get stuffed, knowing the broadcasting moguls won’t spend the money to litigate on the behalf of some sad soul who found cockroaches in his salad at Butlins (it was a staff member, sir, sorry). Occasionally, a major airline or one of the large travel agents will make a “magnanimous” gesture on air and send out a refund check with an apology. You can just hear the firm’s legal eagles whispering, “Do it, do it, Richard, just think of the positive imagery on BBC,” you’ll get back a million from a few quid compensating these sad sacks”
I gradually became weaned off the travel agents as time went by and conditions worsened. I know it’s different if you have the family with you and it’s tough to arrange your holiday for one and all online, going straight to the source. (LOTS of crooks here!). For me, I find the best (read cheapest) air flight to where I want to go - usually Mexico, Spain or the Canaries, As I am fluent in Spanish, I then find a friendly taxi driver and ask him about reasonable, inexpensive and family accommodation…in Mexico, I already have the information or course. Same for eateries and whore-houses, (back a bit!). This way, I am not subject to the vagaries and vulgarities of agents and the internet (except for airline tickets which is usually OK); I don’t arrive in a resort I wouldn’t take my mini Schnauzer to: if I screw-up, then it’s down to me and that’s easier to handle than loosing sleep over some crook chortling as he stuffs his outrageous fees into the bank and then refuses to talk to me if I have a legitimate complaint.
In all ways and walks of life, you need keep your guard up these days, from using your ATM machine, to buying foreign health insurance (won’t be honored in many cases just as you threw your back out trying to get that cockroach from under the bed).
Have a nice dream vacation this year, won’t you?
Afterthought. Sooo many cruises available on dozens of new ships…why are NONE built in the UK shipyards? Mr Cameron???